The Future of the News: A work in progress

The Future of the News is a  TCNJ journalism class that I first taught in the late-1990s, just as the news industry was beginning to openly grapple with the seismic shifts in the news industry wrought by computer science and globalization. I am reviving it for the Spring, 2014. It seems like a good time to check on the predictions in this famous video from the mid-aughts.


This page is intended to give prospective students an idea of my plans for the class. It’s not the full syllabus, but it does convey what the major themes, readings and assignments will be.
Here is the course description in the TCNJ catalog:

An exploration of the impact of technological change, economic conditions and cultural upheavals on the reporting, dissemination and reception of the news.

The class will be organized around four areas where the traditional notions of journalism and journalists are being upended:

1. January: What is the future purpose of the news?

 

January
 21  Reading:
Journalism That Matters: An Expanded Purpose for Journalism; David TZ Mindich: The Collapse of Big Media. The Young and the Restless.
Assignment: Between now and next class, keep a diary of the news sources you consume. Be prepared to share.
24 JTM: What do we need from journalism? In which Peggy Holman argues:

If the purpose of journalism is to support us in making sense of our world, providing the news and information we need to be free and self-governing, what does that tell us about stories that help us find our way in times of change? It calls for an expanded purposejournalism that not only informs, but also engages, inspires, and activates us to be free and self-governing.

Also read: Adrian Holovaty: “A Fundamental Way Newspaper Sites Need to Change and
Andrew Cline on Media/Political Bias.
Additional readings and lectures will draw on the works of Mitchell Stephens (History of News), Jane McGonigal (“Reality is Broken), and Eric Gordon, among others.

 

Holovaty’s blog post inspired the creation of Politifact. Check out the site. In a two-three page response essay explain:1. How does the design of Politifact reflect Holovaty’s ideas about news as structured data?

2. How is Politifact similar to or different from another fact-checking site, Fact-check.org? (It might be useful to compare the two sites’ coverage of the same story. Here’s an example: whether people can keep their current insurance under the Affordable Care Act. (Factcheck, Politifact))Due: January 28

31 – Collaborative class meeting.

2. February: Who is a journalist? What does a journalist do?

 

February
 1  “Discussion: Is Objectivity Obsolete? What’s the proper journalism mindset?
Read: New York Times: Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of the News?Assignment: In class debate on Keller v. Greenwald. Is it better for journalists to be advocates, or should one strive to be nonpartisan? How do we maintain a clear distinction between advocacy journalism and propaganda?
Assignment:Reading: Poynter: Study attempts to define journalists – should we define acts of journalism instead?Read:2008 British employers Journalism Skillset Survey and Alfred Hermida’s 2009 essay, Revamped Journalists’ Role More About Mindset Than Multimedia Tricks” and Jonathan Stray: Designing Journalism to Be Used :

Journalism, capital J, is supposed to be about ideals such as “democracy” and “the public interest.” It’s probably important to be an informed voter, but this is a very shallow theory of why journalism is desirable. Most of what we see around us isn’t built on votes. It’s built on people imagining that some part of the world should be some other way, and then doing what it takes to accomplish that. Democracy is fine, but a real civic culture is far more participatory and empowering than elections. This requires not just information, but information tools. Newspaper stories online and streaming video on a tablet are not those tools.

4 Introduction to the SOAP project – our sandbox for journalism innovation Read:Maite Fernandez: Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism aims to give students a start-up mindsetPro-publica:Creating games for journalism.Assignment: Build a level of #TrendingTrenton, the SOAP-related alternate reality game on affordable housing in Trenton.  (Work on this project will continue through the end of the month.)
8 Picture the impossible alternate reality game;
 February 13 – Collaborative meeting with Software engineering class. Form teams.

March: 3. What is the best way to exploit the power of computational technology in the service of journalism?

  1. Read introduction to Storytelling for User Experience, Brooks and Quesenberry
  2. Play with Google Media Tools
  3. “Ushahidi (Assignment: Create a multimedia profile of a polluted or remediated site for the “TCNJSOAP Crowdmap
  4. Overview – visual document mining tool for journalists.
  5. An introduction to Sensor journalism – explore feasibility of integrating sensor technology into SOAP
  6. Critique software engineering students’ design proposals. Due  

April: 4. The revenue models for journalism

  1. Sustainable Business Models for Journalism – A report on 69 startups in Europe, USA and Japan
  2. Cultivating the Landscape of Innovation in Computational Journalism Nik Diapolous
  3. The rise of sites such as AxisPhilly and the agonizing decline of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  4. Assignment: Propose your own media enterprise
  5. 4/25 System testing for final demos

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